One of my friend was calling me hysterically on a working day. Assuming its urgent, I returned her call immediately to be greeted with a sniveling voice, emptiness and long pause. On coaxing she broke heavily on the phone. She had planned a holiday with her teenage son six months in advance and she had to call it off due to some exigency at work. Being a single mother and trying to bring a work life balance, calling off this vacation meant a lot to her. She handles finance division of a large firm in Singapore. Unlike pretending of her successful professional life, today she was bellowing imperfections in her personal life. She had to cope but she was dying of guilt. Mommy guilt. Mommy guilt is the type of feeling that creates knots in our stomach, leaves us crying in the car on the way to work, or crying in the airport when your flight is delayed and you’re not going to see your kids before they go to bed.
Every working mother goes through this guilt at least once in her life and sometime more often. The dilemma of balancing work and children take its toll on us. while you are rising to the middle management, your kids need you because they are getting into the teenage, they need you for the teenage years. Often the timing of one of the most challenging and important personal life milestone clashes squarely with the timing of when women should be committing most fully to advancing their careers.
Where does this leave me and countless other women like myself who dare to wish to be good mothers and successful professionals. My friend’s bellows were still fresh in my mind that evening when I sat for my introspection session. How did I cope up with those guilt moments? How did these experiences tossed me from the amusing to the frustrating to the exhilarating moods?
List of guilts was endless however it made me tabulate many positive things that happened while I was juggling between my advancing career and child.
I learnt how to put first things first- Some lessons are best learnt in life through our situations than attending any management classes. Post my six year long sabbatical, I returned to India with my six years old daughter while her father worked in Africa. This single parenting forced me to create boundaries on priority to make the best of time. I still remember dividing each page on my to do list diary into four sections and I always gave more importance to urgent and important tasks. This made me, at times, eat lunch on my desk, avoid tea breaks at work, say no to evening cocktails with colleagues post work. Setting these boundaries was very imperative. Without boundaries and guardrails for how and with whom you invest your energy, it becomes very difficult to create any sort of harmony between work and home.
Mommy Time- Self-care is the first to go. It’s much easier for a mom to sacrifice her own care than her care for others. Sounds familiar, right? you often forget if you want to keep others happy, you have to make yourself happy first. In the long term, sacrificing self-care is not sustainable. Schedule some time for yourself; it may be the most important thing you do all week.
Juggling with Child’s home works, reaching late for parent teacher meeting, catching up on classmates birthday parties, doing my errands on the weekend always took its toll on me hence ME time like Early morning walk in the nature on the weekends before she wakes up, Yoga, annual vacation to a new place every year, helped invigorate those energies back in me.
Work Life Balance– We mothers often use sick leave to take care of the sick child, often three days turn into five because after taking care of the sick child Mommy usually falls sick too. Hence we live in a very unpredictable environment. In order to balance I never left anything pending on my to-do-list for tomorrow. If I did, I worked on break shift from home post putting her off to sleep. This was possible because I could manage my office on laptop. To release the pressure points I tore papers, took cold water bath in the middle of the night, laid on the floor in child pose. Amazed? Yes, anything that makes you lighter helps create the balance which keeps you going.
Raising an Independent Child– Perhaps I am not a mother who greeted her child with a plate of homemade goodies every afternoon, but someone who took great care to make sure that she was set up for success. When you are working full time, your children have to extend a helping hand in daily chores and this helps them learn to be independent. Starting from setting up her own cupboard, packing her travel bag, packing the school bag, completing school assignments, cleaning her room on the weekends, clearing her own dishes from the dining table, I saw her grow as an independent child.
All working mothers are usually surrounded with undue pressures from various resources on whether a woman should choose a career and be a mother, too. Of course she has that right, and it is nobody’s business but hers and her family’s. I would simply advice that you not allow your family to get sucked into that black hole of exhaustion. However you choose to divide the responsibilities of working and family management, reserve some time and energy for yourselves and for each other.
If you love what you do and the choices you made, it will somehow drive you forward to enjoy every bit of it. Then the chaos, frustration, exhilaration and exhaustion during the journey will help you find your strengths.